Highlights 'avert' prison riots

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 June, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 June, 1998, 12:00am

Prisoners are being shown daily video highlights of World Cup games to prevent frustrated inmates rioting.

Welfare officers are recording edited versions of the night games and showing them to prisoners during their two-hour recreation periods the following day.

The move followed demands from inmates that they be allowed to watch matches, most of which kick off at 11.30pm or 3am.

'It was quite impossible to let them watch full matches as it took time,' a Correctional Services Department spokesman said. 'And there was more than one match every night, so an edited version of games is the only solution.' Since inmates must stay in their cells at night, live broadcasts were impossible, he said.

'But they could watch the edited version the next day. Full matches will be shown on Sundays and public holidays for enthusiastic fans.' A source from the department said the delayed and edited version was designed to avoid gang fights and underground gambling.

'Prisoners are easily provoked by excuses. Since they were supporting rival teams, gang fights were possible.

'But edited and delayed versions reduce the tension of a live game,' he said.

'Though it was unlikely to stop all sorts of gambling between individual inmates, the method could effectively upset large-scale gambling as prisoners are unwilling to put money on something that's edited and delayed,' he said.

A Correctional Services Department spokesman said gambling in jail was subject to disciplinary action.

The showing of soccer highlights will be seen as a boost to prisoners who have lost the right to read the racing sections of newspapers.

In August 1996 the Court of Appeal reimposed a ban on racing pages after a 1995 decision had ruled that it was in breach of the Bill of Rights.

At the time Mr Justice Henry Litton said prisoners' rights could be restricted in law in order to maintain custodial discipline.

Prison chiefs censored the racing pages to curb illegal gambling in jail which figures revealed was increasing dramatically.